She Said I Expect Better From You

[11:51] <Yanmei> The lobby of Yanmei's own hotel was comparatively quiet. It was likely that most of the guests there were out to dinner or lounging in its in-house restaurants, given the time. It was just as well. Her shoes were now ruined and reeking of sake, and her eyes were puffy, but she felt… perhaps calmer now than she would have expected -
[11:55] <Yanmei> No one here had known what happened back there. Certainly, no one had followed her to one of Tokyo-2's many darkened alleyways to watch her cry and stomp the hell out of some poor unsuspecting empty garbage cans. Satisfying. Disgusting. She walked to the elevator and took it up to the floor where she and Isaiah were staying. Used her key to open it, and kicked off her shoes at the threshold.
[11:58] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Isaiah was out on the balcony, looking out over the city. He hadn’t turned to look at her yet- maybe he hadn't heard her?]
[12:05] <Yanmei> "Isaiah?" So withdrawn. She hesitated - for most of the trip home she had carried the urge to to him and blurt out everything that had happened to her, and to ask him if he thought she was as overbearing as Blanc said. That urge washed away in a deluge of shame. "Have… have you eaten yet?"
[12:09] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Hm-" Isaiah turned around and looked at her, a little smile coming over his face as he stepped back inside. "Y… Yeah, I have. I ordered some takeaway, there’s some left if you… Want…" He frowned. "Yanmei, have you been drinking?"]
[12:14] <Yanmei> "Huh? Oh!" She shook her head, and gave a little laugh. "No, no. I was at this place just now, and there was an accident, and some of this stuff splashed on me. I'll take a shower. It probably smells."
[12:17] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Oh." He nodded quietly to her, a hint of relief as well as concern in his features. "Well… That’s good." He said.]
[12:20] <Yanmei> "More importantly, how are you feeling? Have you been inside a lot today?"
[12:21] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Yeah. I went down to the pool and had a paddle, actually." He said. "Maybe we can go down a little later?"]
[12:22] * Yanmei brightened a little at that. "Of course! I’m glad I packed a wetsuit."
[12:24] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Alright." He smiled. "I’ll go get ready, so you can have that shower of yours if you like."]
[12:26] <Yanmei> "Sure! Ah… I'll need a few minutes to eat too." She was already padding for her luggage, where her personal items were stored.
[12:31] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Isaiah nodded.-
[12:31] <Zhang`Mingzhu> … There was a knock at the door.
[12:33] <Yanmei> "…?" They had just eaten, so it probably wasn’t room service. Oh! "Maybe it's Marianne again? Or…" she remembered their other visitor from earlier, and faltered.
[12:34] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> Knock knock knock.
[12:36] <Yanmei> "Ah…" Yanmei about-faced, and went for the door, and steeled herself before opening it, her face stern. "Yes?"
[12:37] <Zhang`Mingzhu> … She found herself staring into the equally stern face of Zhang Mingzhu.
[12:43] <Yanmei> "Mom?!" She blinked. Relief and surprise and sheer elation spread across her face. "You came to visit? Ah!" For a moment, everything was right with the world, her scrape with Aline Blanc forgotten, her worries over Isaiah minimized. Her mother was wearing a Look, though. It was not a good Look. "P-Please come in! Did something happen on the way here?" She stood aside politely, gesturing inside.
[12:44] * Zhang`Mingzhu was icy cold as she swept in, closing the door without Yanmei’s input. She about-faced and stared at her daughter.-
[12:46] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "-Never-," she began, "Have I -ever- been so embarrassed in my life. To think that I would witness my -very own daughter- screaming in public, in a hotel lobby. That -wasn’t- how I raised you and you had best explain yourself very quickly."
[12:46] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Isaiah’s eyes widened, visible to Yanmei over Mingzhu's shoulder.]
[12:50] * Yanmei had… lost a fair bit of color in her face at that tone alone, but it took a little longer for words to sink in and for full-blown shock to as well. "H-how…? You weren't… w-wait, I…"
[12:52] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I had just finished checking in." Said Mingzhu with steel in her voice. She reached out and clamped on Yanmei’s shoulder, steering her over to the couch, and forced her to sit down on it like she were a sorely misbehaving child. "Explain!"
[13:00] * Yanmei did not dare resist. After a few paces, she found herself on the couch; she didn't lift her eyes to spot out Isaiah or to watch her mother's face. She couldn't bear to. "I… h-have… no excuse. I lost my temper, and…"
[13:01] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I expect better from you," Said Mingzhu angrily. "Than to lose it at a fellow pilot! What could be -so- serious as to provoke such a shameful reaction?!"
[13:06] <Yanmei> "She was saying such… such stupid things…" But… didn’t it sound childish saying it aloud? Her cheeks flared with color, and her head drooped a little lower. Her mother certainly would not have broken down screaming herself. "I'm sorry. I should have handled it better."
[13:10] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "’Stupid' things? You're right. You should have. That's no reason to act like some ranting monkey." Said Mingzhu angrily. "And tell me- -Why- would my daughter be trying to look for ways to undermine the Directors of the very organisation that has kept her clothed and fed for half of her life?"
[13:14] <Yanmei> Sh-shit! A clear spark of panic made it into widening eyes. She had heard even that. Yanmei swallowed, and she formed her hands into fists to hide their shaking. "I don't want to undermine… I… they're doing something that I have to oppose!"
[13:15] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "-What-?"
[13:17] <Yanmei> "They want to make Isaiah a pilot." An extra dose of misery set in. Just -how many people- had heard that line? Stupid stupid stupid Yanmei!
[13:25] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "They’re-?" Mingzhu was silent for a moment, as if stunned by the answer, before her face hardened. "So what?"
[13:29] <Yanmei> "He doesn't want that. Neither do I." Her fists tightened. "To help him means opposing them."
[13:31] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "… That’s -it-? NERV has a mandate to protect the world! It's not some child's game, Yanmei, it's the fate of everyone on Earth! If they want to make him a pilot, so what? If they want to make anyone a pilot, so what? It's what has-"-
[13:31] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Miss Zhang!" A sharp voice cut through the air. Isaiah- his voice harder than it had been in a long time. "That is enough."]-
[13:31] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "… I beg your pardon?"
[13:39] * Yanmei looked up in astonishment now, focusing on Isaiah, a certain sort of anxiety setting in. This was going to be bad, wasn’t it? "N-no. It's okay. It's…" her gaze dropped back down. "It's something I've been working hard on, Mom. It's important to me."
[13:41] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Moreso than your job?"
[13:43] <Yanmei> "…they won’t fire me. They've invested too much. In me. In the unit I pilot."
[13:46] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "That… Is -no- excuse." Said Mingzhu. "To assume that you’re invaluable is always a bad idea."
[13:51] <Yanmei> "Yes, Mom." she said unhappily. "I'm sorry. But…" a slight hint of hope. Maybe she could get her to see things her way. "They also could have easily stopped me by now, if they were going to. So maybe they won't?"
[13:53] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Or perhaps they don’t need to." Said Mingzhu archly. "But enough of that. Why do you despise Dr. Ikari? A respected and intelligent woman?"
[14:00] <Yanmei> "She's creepy, Mom. She did awful things." A slight shadow passed over her face at the memories. "And she did them to her own family, too. Out of love! And desperation. She gave us a tour of her research a few days ago, and seeing the results of it really hurt some people. And… it's like she had no clue that it would!"-
[14:02] <Yanmei> "She doesn't care about life at all. I don't like her."
[14:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "The quality and content of Dr. Ikari’s research is for the best." Said Mingzhu angrily. "You are in no position to criticise anything she does-"-
[14:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["-Shut up-."-
[14:06] * Zhang`Mingzhu froze, and turned around to stare daggers at Isaiah. "How dare you."-
[14:08] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["No, how dare -you-! You have no idea what your daughter’s been through- and no surprise, considering how you don't lift a bloody finger to find out! Instead you feel completely justified marching back into her life and hold her to task?! I have spent over a -week- trying to organise a meeting so you can say hello to your daughter and show her you care, but no, it took a public disturbance to bring you here. What kind of mother -are- you?!"]
[14:16] <Yanmei> "I-Isaiah!" Yanmei half-rose, eyes flitting back and forth between the two. Bad. Bad bad bad… "Please calm down. Mom… you too. Please? What if I made us some drinks? Tea? Hot chocolate?" Her smile was tight and desperate. Frightened, even.
[14:20] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "You have no right to question my parenting-"-
[14:21] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Don’t I? Because you seem to be doing a pretty shitty job right now." Said Isaiah angrily. "From my perspective, only one of us in this room actually seems to -love- Yanmei, and it sure as hell isn't you-"-
[14:21] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I’ve had enough of this." She grabbed Yanmei's arm and started pulling her towards the door. Providing she didn't resist, before long the two of them would be in the hallway- Mingzhu slamming the door closed behind her.
[14:25] * Yanmei …did not resist. Because she was her Mom. She barely had time to give Isaiah a last wide-eyed glance before the door slammed. "…" She gazed at her mother now, tense and unnerved.
[14:26] * Zhang‘Mingzhu was heading for the elevator, her breath coming out in short angry snorts.
[14:26] * Zhang`Mingzhu was still pulling Yanmei along, yes.
[14:28] <Yanmei> "…where are we going?" She was trying to pull together -some- semblence of calmness, although… it was surreal seeing her mom not make the same effort even on a surface level. She spoke again, trying to make her words sound even. "Back to your hotel?"
[14:29] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "We’re going to go pay a visit to the Ikari household."
[14:29] <Yanmei> "H-huh?!"
[14:31] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> Elevator! The doors went ’ping!'. "We're going to sort this out -right now-. Like adults."
[14:33] <Yanmei> "Sort…" She stared at the open doors of the elevator as if they were the gates of hell. "You want me to speak with Doctor Ikari…"
[14:34] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "That’s right." Said Mingzhu, stepping into the elevator. The woman was starting to regain her own semblance of calm now.
[14:37] * Yanmei followed. She couldn't exactly go back to her room now either. "I'm sorry about Isaiah. He's been suffering a lot lately."
[14:37] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "…" Mingzhu stared at the doors. "Is what he said true?"
[14:38] <Yanmei> "What?"
[14:38] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "That you’ve been… Hurting."
[14:45] * Yanmei stared. If she said what she wanted to, something vital would crumble down between the two of them. During the birthday conversation, her mom had radiated such warmth and confidence, such pure pride. "Compared to what he's gone through… to what my peers have gone through… it doesn't hurt at all."
[14:48] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Peers? Like Aline Blanc?"
[14:51] * Yanmei kept her tongue in check. "Blanc. And Ikari Shinji. And some others from back home." She smiled faintly up at her, hoping that she would smile back. "I’ve been fortunate. My whole life, I've been fortunate."
[14:53] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "You will have to make amends with Blanc." Said Mingzhu, looking at Yanmei for a second before looking away as the doors opened.
[14:54] <Yanmei> "…" The smile dropped as the doors opened, and Yanmei nearly sagged along with it. "Yes, Mom." She prepared to follow.
[14:57] * Zhang`Mingzhu had emerged in the lobby floor, and quickly led Yanmei through the appealing surroundings until she reached the outside- to where her car was. Mingzhu hopped in.
[15:01] * Yanmei climbed into the passenger seat, still a little sour, but determined not to show it. "You rented a car? It’s a really nice one! Maybe when we're done at the Ikaris, we could take an evening drive around town?"
[15:03] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Would you like that?" She stared to drive.
[15:05] <Yanmei> "Yeah!" Yanmei beamed. "If you don’t mind? I've been learning to drive too, so I could even take over for a while."
[15:07] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "We’ll see." Said Mingzhu.
[15:09] <Yanmei> 'We'll see' meant a lot of things. Usually 'no'. But she would take that, because it was probably as good as she was going to get, especially when her mother was this angry. Clinging to that bit of hope with satisfaction, Yanmei settled back in her seat.
[15:10] * Zhang‘Mingzhu drove.-
[15:11] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "… You and Isaiah seem fairly close." Said Mingzhu. Her tone was still very cool.
[15:14] <Yanmei> "He’s a wonderful friend of mine." She kept concerned and wary glances to herself. "I try to protect him, and he does the same for me. He's been assigned to me as a personal nurse, but we got along well before then."
[15:15] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes. He does seem very… Protective."
[15:17] <Yanmei> "Do you know his father? Doctor Elijah Gabriel? He works in the Paris-2 branch’s weapons department."
[15:20] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes, I’ve had to work with him a few times." Said Mingzhu. "Positron weapons, if I remember."
[15:22] <Yanmei> "I knew it! You talk to a lot of people, because you're so important." Yanmei beamed again, looking genuinely proud. "What do you think of him? Dr. Gabriel, I mean?"
[15:22] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "An intelligent man. His designs work. Not very sociable."
[15:24] <Yanmei> "He and Isaiah don’t get along too well."
[15:24] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Oh?"
[15:25] <Yanmei> "When Isaiah’s mom died, it… shook up the family dynamic. For the time being, Isaiah doesn't even live at home."
[15:27] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I see. So he relies on you a lot, then."
[15:28] <Yanmei> "I suppose so!" She was warming up to him again! This was great.
[15:29] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "I am… Worried." She said. "That he seems to be provoking you into challenging the Directors, nevertheless. Is he worth that?"
[15:35] <Yanmei> Yanmei’s hopes deflated a little. "Yes. He's very important to me. But… not in manner that would be indecent or romantic." She was quick to add that last part.
[15:41] * Zhang‘Mingzhu turned a gaze towards Yanmei from the corner of her eye. "I can’t say I'm entirely -thrilled- by how things have turned out, but you seem very close to him, and he seems to feel very strongly about your happiness." She paused, frowning slightly. "Very strongly, if the messages I've been receiving this week have been any indication. I guess I can forgive his outburst this once."
[15:43] <Yanmei> "Heh. I take it he was a little enthusiastic?" She felt a brush of internal warmth. "Ah. Well, thank you for forgiving him."
[15:46] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I’m glad you have someone you can rely on." Said Mingzhu. "He thinks I was being too hard on you. But there is more than one way to show love. You'll have to tell him that."
[15:49] <Yanmei> "I'll remember to tell him." That made her happy too. For a moment, she was almost able to forget where they were heading.
[15:49] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> … And a few minutes later they pulled into the Ikari driveway.
[10:57] * Yanmei lingered in her seat, staring at the house itself. She was getting really aquainted with feelings of discomfort and reluctance at the moment. It was too late to talk herself out of it, too… "Is this really okay?" she murmured lamely. "It’s Christmas Eve, so what if they're busy?"
[11:00] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "No time like Christmas to sort out problems." Mingzhu climbed out of the car.
[11:06] * Yanmei held in a sigh and followed her lead, sliding out from her seat and closing the car door once she was clear. She began the march to the front door…
[11:11] * Zhang`Mingzhu stood slightly behind Yanmei’s shoulder. She waited for her daughter to take the lead.
[11:12] <Yanmei> So Yanmei knocked, and straightened her posture, trying to think of what to say to whoever opened the door.
[11:14] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [The door opened.-
[11:15] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["O-Oh…" Yui was standing in the doorway, looking more frail than ever. Her eyes were rather puffy and red-looking, and Yanmei would easily note the dark bruises and marks on the woman’s neck that her t-shirt failed to completely hide. She smiled, but it was a very fragile one.]
[11:18] * Yanmei smiled back courteously. "Hello, Doctor Ikari. We came to see how you were doing."
[11:20] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["A-Ah. Oh, Zhang Mingzhu-san…" Yui nodded a little. She seemed quite jumpy as she stepped aside. "Please come in…"]
[11:24] * Yanmei did just that. For the first time, she realized that she had left her shoes back in the hotel, and she almost cringed with embarrassment as she waited for her mom to at least remove her own. "Are you having a good holiday so far? I assume that you’ll have a few days off to recover…"
[11:25] * Zhang‘Mingzhu slipped her shoes off and followed Yanmei inside. "Your house looks nice, Dr. Ikari."-
[11:27] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Thank you." Said Yui, smiling in an almost desperate attempt to portray an image of domestic peace instead of… What she had. "Um, it’s… Well it could be better." She said to Yanmei. "Shinji… Left awhile ago, with a suitcase… B-But it's natural for boys to want to move out, and I bet he'll be back before long…" Hurt and worry in her eyes. "A-At least, Rei's back, so that's the main thing."]
[11:32] <Yanmei> "He probably… will come home eventually." Although she wouldn't blame him if he didn't. "With what happened, it would take a while for him to figure out how to feel. I think everyone's going through that now."
[11:33] * Zhang‘Mingzhu quirked an eyebrow in unspoken questions at the mention of ’Rei'.-
[11:34] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Ah… Ah well." Yui seemed to falter for just a second. "I wanted to make him happy, not…" … She shook her head. "N-Not what I should think about. D-did Rei visit you earlier? She went out for awhile…"]
[11:39] <Yanmei> "She did. But…" A sharp flicker of that old anger, but she looked away to hide it. "Dr Ikari. Do you know why Isaiah reacted as he did? Or why Shinji left?"
[11:41] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["W-Well…" Yui put a hand to her throat, shuddering slightly. There was fear in her eyes. "T-They didn’t understand…"]
[11:46] <Yanmei> "Are they the ones who didn't understand?" Yanmei shifted her weight. "Unlike certain other condescending and deluded pilots, I can't claim to know with 100% certainty about what went through their minds or yours. But I was disquieted by the revelation too. And the Commander gave me an explanation about what you were trying to do. Would it be all right if we talked about this?"
[11:55] * Zhang‘Mingzhu cleared her throat sternly. Yanmei really should not have needed a warning about her attitude towards her fellow pilots so soon.-
[11:55] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["… That’s alright."]
[12:00] * Yanmei winced a little at the throat-clearing, but then quietly rallied. "We… should start at the beginning. It will give my mother an understanding of what happened too. You… wanted to bring back Rei because you loved her, right? And you also thought that the people who loved her would be thrilled to have her back."
[12:01] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Yui nodded fervently. "T-They will be, when they get used to it." Said Yui. "She’s my precious angel…"
[12:01] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ]
[12:08] <Yanmei> "But is she really Rei?" Yanmei frowned a little. "Rei is somewhere else. In EVA-05. Both this, and the realization that Rei -was- 05 were very shocking for similar reasons."
[12:16] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["She…" Yui shook her head. "I-I didn’t want her in 05… I-I wanted her to be able to live in a normal body, but… B-But the Rei in there… She's grown up, but she still sees herself as Rei… A-As my little girl…"]
[12:24] <Yanmei> "But it's not Rei." Her voice was controlled. Very careful. Her mom was standing right there, after all. "She's a different being, with Rei's memories. And… it -hurts-. It hurts seeing her because she has those memories and that personality and because the shell its residing in is a weapon for war."-
[12:27] <Yanmei> "All you've done is create another version of 05."
[12:28] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["No… That… That -isn’t- true." Said Yui rawly. "M-My little girl can still go to school- have a life. She -can-, Yanmei, she -can-! She can be a normal girl, even if she's made for things like that."]
[12:36] * Yanmei stared at her. A lot of things were rushing through her, not the least of which were contempt and pity and -anger- because she couldn't say what she really wanted to to that.-
[12:40] <Yanmei> "But she's not Rei," she said quietly. "Just because you put her memories in a new body doesn't change the fact that the real Rei is elsewhere. Everyone in that lab could not forget that. So… seeing Rei like that was like seeing a ghost, but worse, because it wasn't a real ghost. It was a weapon."-
[12:43] <Yanmei> "Like seeing a memory of someone you loved twisted around for profit. We've already estabished that you did not do it for profit, but no matter whose memories she has, that being's purpose is the same as far as the organization is concerned, right?"-
[12:45] <Yanmei> "Isaiah… learning about Rei's death destroyed him. And he cried a lot when he learned that she was in 05 too. So for him to react as he did makes sense…"
[12:48] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [A shadow of guilt crossed Yui’s face. "I-I didn't want to hurt Isaiah. I-I wasn't trying to create a ghost, Yanmei, I swear! I-I just wanted my daughter back anyway I can… I…" Tears were starting to fill her eyes, and she shakily tried to stop them. "It hurt -so- much, you have no idea…"]
[12:51] * Yanmei rummaged around in a pocket for a moment. A tissue with a bit of lint stuicking to it. She handed it to Dr Ikari. "I know, I know." She tried to make her voice soothing. "You missed her so much…"
[12:53] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Yui dabbed at her eyes, her cheeks. "I-I couldn’t live without her, Yanmei. S-Surely you have to know h-how horrible it'd be to lose your s-special someone…"]
[12:58] <Yanmei> "…" A queer feeling ran through her now, and she looked down at the floor for a moment. "I was very angry at you. -Very- angry, because you hurt that someone special right in front of me in addition to what you did with Rei. You were suffering too, though."
[13:03] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["I-I’m sorry. I-I didn't mean to make you angry, I'm sorry…" Yanmei would find Yui pulling her into a very tight hug, and then bursting into tears on her shoulder.]
[13:05] <Yanmei> "!!" The move caught her by surprise. It took a few moments for her body to move in response, but it was not to push her away. Instead, she just patted her on the back, feeling her dress dampen, letting her cry it out. "I still don't like what you did, but…" she mumbled. She tried not to look at her mother because of how awkward she felt.
[13:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["F-Forgive me, Yanmei." Sobbed Yui. "F-Forgive me for being weak…"-
[13:06] * Zhang`Mingzhu watched on impassively.
[13:09] <Yanmei> Pat pat pat. "It’s okay, Dr Ikari. Not okay okay. But…" she was struggling with something internal. "I won't… I w-won't be mad at you anymore."
[13:12] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["W-What do I do now, Yanmei?"]
[13:16] <Yanmei> "Talk. To Shinji and Isaiah, and de Pteres. …give that last guy some more time before you do, though. A few months. A year." She grimaced. "Explain what you feel, and accept their feelings too. They’ll do a better job of describing them to you than I could, because I'm not them."
[13:18] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["I-I will, I promise…" Said Yui, disengaging from Yanmei a little. "Y-Yanmei, p-please… I-I need you to help me, too…"]
[13:18] <Yanmei> "Yes…?"
[13:23] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["I-I know you… You don’t see her as… As Rei, but… I-I still love her." Mumbled Yui. "I-it might be hard. But she's… She'll be lonely and… Yanmei…"]
[13:29] <Yanmei> "…" More internal wrestling. Another look at Yui's teary face. "You don't have to say it," she mumbled. "I promise I'll try." They were only here in Tokyo-2 for a bit longer, anyway.
[13:31] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Yui smiled, a real, genuine happy smile. "S-she’s in her room. Thank you, my dear. -Thank you-."]
[13:33] <Yanmei> "Then… I will say hello." Yanmei pulled back a moment, and nodded partings to both women. "Please excuse me."
[13:36] * Zhang‘Mingzhu nodded solemnly.-
[13:36] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Just… Through there." Yui gestured to the hallway, and the door… A plaque sat on it saying ’Rei' in Japanese, with a loveheart and a cat drawn on it.]
[13:38] <Yanmei> How kiddish. But he was just a kid, wasn't she? Mentally? Another weird feeling seized her as she approached, and she… listened for a minute before gently knocking.
[13:39] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["…"-
[13:39] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Come in."]
[13:41] * Yanmei did so, with a deep breath and a long exhale before then. It would be fine. All she had to do was just not be mean to her, right? Like with that pain Natasha. "Hello. Are you enjoying your Christmas Eve?" She smiled.
[13:44] <Zhang`Mingzhu> [Rei had been lying down on her futon, staring at the wall in a sort of fugue state. When Yanmei entered, however, the girl sat up, staring at Yanmei with wide eyes… puffy red eyes that were still bearing the traces of tears that she hadn’t bothered to wipe away. "… Meimei…"]
[13:48] <Yanmei> Something inside of her went still. The surreal feeling ballooned… mingled with something she hadn't expected to feel. Shame. "…" The girl averted her eyes to look around the room.
[13:52] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Meimei." The girl smiled. A little smile. She picked up something beside her- a picture frame… With an all too familiar picture.]
[13:58] * Yanmei took a backward step. Th-that picture… "R-Rei…" But she wasn’t supposed to call her that, was she? She wasn't Rei. She was someone else, and she would get the wrong idea at this rate.
[14:04] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Another tear rolled down Rei’s face. "I hoped you would come visit me."]
[14:10] <Yanmei> "My mother gave me a ride. She's talking to yours right now. You could meet her, if you like." Because that was better than staring her discomfort straight in the face.
[14:14] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Rei stood up. She was a little shorter than Yanmei. "Did Zaizai come? I am sorry about making him upset."]
[14:17] <Yanmei> "He’s at the hotel, but for different reasons. I'll talk to him about visiting, though." Too little too late, it felt like. Yanmei briefly pressed her lips together. "I was cruel before. I'm sorry."
[14:19] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["It’s alright." Said Rei. The girl seemed genuinely happy. "I missed you, Meimei."]
[14:22] <Yanmei> Missed. That would imply that they knew each other before. But she wasn't… Yanmei shut her eyes a moment, and then yanked her scarf from around her neck. There were bruises there, like the ones that had been inflicted on Dr Ikari. "Here." She thrust the scarf out at her. "I'll get you a better present later. And I'll replace that cake of yours too. But for now…"
[14:25] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Ah-" Rei took the scarf in her hands, staring at it. "Thank you, Meimei." She said, tears running down her cheeks again. The girl closed her eyes and rubbed the scarf against her cheek. "It’s so soft." She seemed to genuinely love it… No matter how much it smelled of sake.]
[14:29] <Yanmei> "Heh… you might want to ask your mom to find a way to clean it before you wear it, though?" She reached out… hesistated… then let a hand come to a rest affectionately on her head. "I'm glad you like it, though. I'll get some more neat stuff too. Clothes." She tried to guess her size, but it was a distracted effort at most. "What's your favorite color?"
[14:33] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yellow." Said Rei.
[14:37] <Yanmei> "Then yellow dresses. But, something that bright will wash you out. Your pretty fair skinned, so… maybe some subtle reds, too. And some blue colors. I’ll buy a lot!" She was rambling now, but the kid sure did look happy.
[14:37] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["I will buy you something too."]
[14:39] <Yanmei> "You don’t have to. Because you already did the other day." Yanmei smiled at her. "But you know? If you came with me, we could experiment and see what works for you. It's important to experiment with these things. That's how you figure out what you like!"
[14:41] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Right now?" Her eyes were wide with wonder!]
[14:43] <Yanmei> "I’ll come by the day after tomorrow. Your mom probably wants to spend Christmas with you, so you should stay here for that day."
[14:45] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Alright, Meimei."]
[14:47] <Yanmei> "We’ll have fun. I promise." She gave her another little headpat.
[14:48] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [The girl smiled- a small but warm smile. "Thank you, Meimei. You are the best."]
[14:50] <Yanmei> No. She was a mean, cruel person. YAnmei’s shoulders sagged a little. It's just that Rei - this Rei - didn't know any better. "I'm sorry again. About before."
[14:52] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["It’s alright." Said Rei. "I understand. I was wrong. It was wrong of me to expect you to be my friend, because I wasn't the same person."]
[14:55] <Yanmei> That… just made her look sadder. After the initial surprise had cooled off. So the realization really -had- set in. "I'll be your friend now, regardless of who you are or aren't."
[14:55] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Thank you, Meimei. That makes me very happy."]
[14:57] <Yanmei> "I’m glad." She gave another little smile, and a fistpump. "Let's do our best on this shopping trip, yeah?"
[14:58] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Rei blinked, once. Then copied the fistpump herself. "I promise."]
[14:58] <Yanmei> "That’s the spirit!"
[15:00] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Rei continued to smile, and stare. "Thank you."]
[15:06] <Yanmei> "You don’t have to thank me," Yanmei stretched a little, pretending to be nonchalant. "Come on. Let's go back out to say hi to our moms."
[15:10] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Alright, Meimei."]
[11:59] * Yanmei led the way, of course, approaching quietly at first. If they were locked in an interesting conversation, she didn’t want to interrupt too abruptly. It was uncouth to eavesdrop, but…
[12:01] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "So we can expect our first orders by April." Said Mingzhu.-
[12:01] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Y… Yes. If we’re lucky."]
[12:02] <Yanmei> Part shipments. That wasn't too interesting. She stepped out into the open. "Excuse me…"
[12:03] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Rei stepped out as well. "Mother. Dr. Zhang." She bowed.-
[12:04] * Zhang`Mingzhu stared at Rei for a moment. Yanmei would recognise the split-second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse of understanding- and horror- on Mingzhu's face before her game face returned. "… Yanmei. I see it went alright."
[12:06] <Yanmei> "Yes." She turned and gave Rei a little nod. "Please introduce yourself."
[12:07] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Rei bowed. "Hello, Dr. Zhang. It’s me. Rei."-
[12:08] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "…" Mingzhu looked at the girl for a moment, before looking back to Yui. "… I… Am rather stunned by the… progress you’ve made in your work, Dr. Ikari."-
[12:08] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Thank you."]
[12:13] <Yanmei> "Dr Ikari?" She tried not to pay much mind to the troubling comment from her mother. "May I have your permission to take Rei out for a day? It would be after Christmas, naturally."
[12:14] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["O-Of course!" Said Yui happily.]
[12:15] <Yanmei> "Then I’ll look forward to it," she beamed back at her.
[12:15] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Rei smiled.-
[12:15] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "Well. I think it’s about time we headed off. We're rather busy." Said Mingzhu. "Thank you for the hospitality, Dr. Ikari. Yanmei?"
[12:16] <Yanmei> "Right." She bowed to the hostess and her daughter. "Thank you for having us. Have a good evening, okay?"
[12:17] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["I will. Thank you, Yanmei." "Thank you, Meimei."]
[12:19] * Yanmei hurried after her mother, lingering by the door while she put on her shoes before stepping outside toward the car.
[12:20] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Goodbye." "Bye!"-
[12:21] * Zhang`Mingzhu stepped outside, quickly putting her shoes on and climbing into the car.
[12:24] <Yanmei> The car. Yanmei sunk into the passenger seat with a long, silent exhale. "So. That went well?"
[12:25] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "…" Mingzhu started the car up. Backed out. She started to drive. "… Seems like."
[12:27] <Yanmei> "Mom." Yanmei stared at the windshield. The sky had grown darker while they had been indoors. "…"-
[12:28] <Yanmei> "… never mind. I think I forgot what I was going to ask." She chuckled, keeping up a cheerful front.
[12:29] * Zhang`Mingzhu glanced at Yanmei. Then back to the road. "…" Awkward. How to say…? "… I… Should admit something."
[12:30] <Yanmei> "Yes…?"
[12:31] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "It seems I wasn’t aware of all the details." Said Mingzhu. "… I admit now, even I find Dr. Ikari's 'work'… Troubling."
[12:33] <Yanmei> "I'm sorry. I should have done a better job informing you. Still, that doesn't exactly change what her work is."
[12:34] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "It doesn’t." Admitted Mingzhu. "However. I can… Sympathise with her actions. Apologising to her was the right thing to do."
[12:37] <Yanmei> "Right," said Yanmei quietly. "You're right."
[12:47] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "The girl seems fond of you." Yanmei couldn’t be certain, but it looked as though they were taking the road back to the hotel…
[12:50] <Yanmei> She had forgotten, then. Well, it was getting late anyway. "It's just that… she has the memories of someone who was fond of me. The original Ikari Rei. I should be nice to her, I suppose."
[12:52] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Were you nice to the original Ikari Rei?"
[12:54] <Yanmei> "Of course! We met during a vacation that was given to the Paris-2 pilots durin the summer. Dr Ikari and her two children accompanied us to the Alps, and after that, to the Riviera."
[12:55] * Zhang`Mingzhu nods. "Then you’re right. It's probably very important to the new Rei that you remain her friend."
[13:01] <Yanmei> "Then, of course, I'll try to do that for the remainder of our stay in Tokyo-2. Ah… that reminds me. We should do some things too, while you're here. Shopping or dining out or… something that you'd like to do, Mom. A tour of the Tokyo-2 NERV facilities? The non-laboratory parts, at least?" she had already been on one, but she wouldn't mind it again in this case.
[13:02] * Zhang‘Mingzhu continued to drive as she thought. There was a turnoff they had to take to go back to the hotel- Mingzhu missed it.-
[13:03] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "I’m still here for a few days. Why don't we go out for dinner? We can bring Mr. Gabriel-Wei along one night too."
[13:06] <Yanmei> "Really?" She let her eyes widen a little too much, let a little too much elation charge up in her voice. In the seconds afterward, she was embarrassed about it. But… the exit! "W-wait, you missed it…"
[13:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I’m not going back to the hotel." Mingzhu turned to give her daughter a smile. "What, did you think I'd forgotten…?"
[13:10] * Yanmei stared, and then tried to straighten her shoulders. "Of course not! It's not like you gave a straight answer before? So…" She was not going to do something sill and giddy like bounce in her seat. That was what -kids- did. "Mom?"
[13:12] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes?"
[13:14] <Yanmei> "Since we finally have time, may I tell you about… well. Everything?" So much to catch up on. Maybe Mingzhu would even reciprocate with tales of life outside work. If… she had one now. Probably not.
[13:15] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "Of course. I was hoping you would, blossom."
[13:20] <Yanmei> "Then… I’ll start wit school." And she did. She described the teachers, the more tolorable students, a few less-tolorable ones, the failed school elections, and even the lunches. She kept a lid on her grades, though. That was just asking to destroy the mood.-
[13:24] <Yanmei> After that she spoke of life at Marianne's apartment before and after Isaiah's arrival. She spoke of the tamer parts of work, even briefly bringing up some of the lighthearted tales from their vacation in the Alps and this recent one in Japan.-
[13:24] <Yanmei> There was no mention of a love hotel at all. Ever.
[13:25] * Zhang‘Mingzhu nodded and listened, mostly. She made the odd comment. But she didn’t mention anything Yanmei found embarrassing or the like. Chances are she already knew about her grades. She always had.-
[13:26] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> But at this point they continued to drive, the skies grew darker- so did their surroundings. They’d seemingly left the city behind at some point…-
[13:26] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> … At least, until Mingzhu turned a sloping corner. There sat a park, green and filled with trees. And below them? The skyline of Tokyo-2, lit up like a thousand christmas trees, glimmering against the night, outshining the stars.-
[13:27] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "Take a look at that."
[13:31] <Yanmei> "It’s gorgeous!" Yanmei breathed. "Such an amazing view! Tokyo-2…" She kept her eyes locked on the millions of twinkling lights. "From a distance, it looks so different.'
[13:33] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "A million people work and live down there." Said Mingzhu. "You know… Once upon a time, I never thought I’d live to see Tokyo- any Tokyo- glimmer like this again. In fact, I think it's reasonable to say that I had, once, given up on ever seeing anything like this again."
[13:37] <Yanmei> "Second Impact?" Sobering a little, Yanmei sat back in her seat again. It was… surprising to think of her giving up. Her strong mother.
[13:42] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "That’s right." Said Mingzhu. "Washed out by the floods, all the famines- all I had was a briefcase, a car, a degree that seemed worth less than the paper it was printed on, and a very pushy little baby in my belly, making things even harder." She stared out at the twinkling lights of Tokyo-2. "It was tough." This wasn't the first time Yanmei'd heard this. Mingzhu had told her about Second Impact before… But she'd always capped that statement off with 'I was tougher'. But this time she was quiet.
[13:45] <Yanmei> … The absence of that line left her… puzzled. And sad about the lines that had traditionally come before it. Yanmei lowered her eyes a little. "I'm sorry."
[13:46] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "You shouldn’t be sorry." Said Mingzhu. "Want to know why?"
[13:47] <Yanmei> "Why?"
[13:53] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Well." Mingzhu tapped the dashboard. "I never really thought of myself as a mother sort. I mean. You always have those girls who seem unnaturally made to be mothers. I never felt like them. I knew I wanted a child, but… All in good time. On my own terms." She frowned slightly out at the city line. "It would’ve been easy to give up. In fact, I'm sure many people did just that. Your father…" A pause. "Simply put, it seemed like the end of the world. Everything was bad, except for one thing."
[13:58] * Yanmei gazed at her, caught between worry and expectancy. A badly timed baby. An expecting mother who was struggling. There was a happy ending, wasn't there? Even if she hadn't become of a mother on her own terms?
[14:01] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I didn’t know how to be a mother. But I realised… That the baby in my stomach, no matter how much harder it seemed to make things, was actually a good thing. A new life in the face of a global disaster. Proof that there was still some hope. So I decided right then and there that, even if I were alone, with no prospects, I would spit in the eye of Second Impact. Even if it was the utterly last thing I did, I'd prove that I was worthy of helping to bring a little hope into the world."
[14:06] <Yanmei> "You -were- worthy!" Yanmei insisted. "And you were a good mother, because you did so much to povide for me, even back then." Not that… she could remember back to that point. But she could remember things from other parts of her life.
[14:07] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes. But I didn’t know that at the time. Let me spin it like this: how do -you- feel about parenting right now?"
[14:10] <Yanmei> "… I see your point," she mumbled. Diapers, gross. Aside from that, there was getting a job, and finding a home, and… knowing how to be a mom. "You were tough," she muttered.
[14:11] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I chose to be tough." Said Mingzhu. "I wanted to rebuild. I wanted to see what sort of world would emerge from the ashes. I wanted to see what you’d do."
[14:13] <Yanmei> "Me?" She thought back to the recording she had seen, feeling odd mixes of warmth and anxiety. "You wanted me to be somebody."
[14:14] * Zhang‘Mingzhu smiled. "I wanted you to live. Furthermore, I wanted you to be better than me."
[14:17] <Yanmei> Stuck between assuring her that yes, she would, if that’s what she wanted, and the sheer difficulty of the task. She just gazed back at her, fighting for appropriate words. "I-I…"
[14:19] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "You can do it, you know." Said Mingzhu. "I made the right choice when I decided to defy the apocalypse. That pushy baby grew into a beautiful young lady who makes her mother very proud."
[14:25] <Yanmei> "Mom…" There was something bright glimmering on her lower eyelids, but she quickly tried to blink them away. She cleared her throat, too, trying to rid herself of the lump there. Proud. She said she was proud of her! "I promise, I’ll… I won't do anything to embarrass you again! I'll do my best to make your hope come true. I promise."
[14:29] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "That’s my blossom." Said Mingzhu. She was smiling. "Of course, you'll have to try very hard. Even if you do surpass me, I think a few of the things I've done warrant a few chapters' worth of stories for the grandchildren, no?" She started to pull the car away now. "Beating up a few supernatural monsters isn't going to cut it." Was she joking? Probably…
[14:34] <Yanmei> "Eh? Then I'll have to be more ambitious," Yanmei winked at her, and then grinned at the windshield. "I'm not a scientist or an engineer, but there must be something else I can do…"
[14:34] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Maybe, for now, you can focus on being a hero."
[14:38] <Yanmei> "A hero. I’ll try. No…" She made herself sound more resolute. "I'll do it, of course!"
[14:39] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Good." Said Mingzhu in satisfaction. "Now… Let’s get you home, alright? If that Gabriel-Wei really -does- love you more than me, he should be in a right and proper panic by now." She said smugly.
[14:40] <Yanmei> "It's not that late, is it?" She searched the dashboard for a clock… and blinked when she found it. "Oh my…"
[14:42] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "We lost track of time…" Said Mingzhu, tittering a little.-
[14:43] <Zhang`Mingzhu> A quick drive later- but within speed limits, of course- saw them pull up in front of the hotel once again.
[14:48] <Yanmei> If it was Marianne, she might have gotten a kiss goodbye or a hug. Yanmei’s arms almost ached a little at the urge… instead, she opened the car door, and got out, and bowed properly and deeply. "Thank you, Mom. I hope you have a good night!"
[15:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Hold on." Mingzhu reached into the back of the car… And pulled out something. A plainly-wrapped present! "It’s a day early. But…"
[15:09] * Yanmei …looked surprised! Gingerly, she held the parcel to her chest. "I need to give you one too. Can I find you tomorrow?"
[15:11] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I’ll try to swing around sometime for breakfast."
[15:13] <Yanmei> "Great! I'll be waiting." Yanmei bowed again, and took another stop back. "Goodnight! And… thank you."
[15:14] * Zhang‘Mingzhu smiled. "I’ll have my eye on you, blossom. Goodnight."
[15:18] <Yanmei> "Goodnight!" She backed away further, toward the hotel doors, giving one last wave before going in. She passed through the lobby, to the elevator, to the floor where their room was, and opened it with the use of her keycard. "I'm back~" She felt shockingly light on her feet. Almost dizzy
[15:20] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [… Unfortunately, the room she entered didn’t match her attitude.-
[15:21] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Half the lights were off, except for the kitchen light. In the half-light gloom, she saw Isaiah, sitting at the bench. If she thought he’d looked bad earlier… Well. he'd somehow managed to make himself look worse. He looked like a depressed man who'd caved in, sitting there, a bottle of amber alcohol in his hand. He stared at it sullenly.]
[15:24] <Yanmei> "…" No. It couldn't be… "Isaiah?" She closed the door. Padded over to him. She stopped at one of the light switches with the urge to turn it on, but more important things beckoned. "What are you doing?"
[15:26] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Drinking." He took the bottle and took a straight swig. "… Ugh."]
[15:28] <Yanmei> "But you hate drinking." She reached toward the bottle, gently, slowly. "You’re upset. Do you want to talk about it?"
[15:29] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Isaiah wasn’t his father, and didn't lift a finger to resist Yanmei taking away his alcohol. "… I ruined -everything-." He said.-
[15:29] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [… Then he began to sob. It was the first time since the incident with the MPs.]
[15:31] <Yanmei> "No, no, aw, Isaiah…" She leaned over him, and put her arm around his shoulder.
[15:32] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["I -argued-, I-I should’ve just shut up…"]
[15:34] <Yanmei> "She was mad, but… she also said that she forgave you." Yanmei gave him a little comforting squeeze. "She wants you to come have dinner with us sometime."
[15:37] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["I-I…" For a minute he seemed to pause for breath. "I d-don’t deserve to. You shouldn't have to waste time on me."]
[15:40] <Yanmei> "Don't you say that! Come on." She set the bottle on the table, and turned to look him in the eye. "You were trying to help me. Anyone could see that. Thank you, Isaiah, for sticking up for me."
[15:42] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["…" Isaiah looked her in the eye for a moment. "She made me angry. She shouldn’t have said those things." He mumbled.]
[15:45] <Yanmei> "She didn't know. Will you forgive her too, Isaiah?"
[15:46] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Of course. I don’t like being angry." He was staring at his hands.]
[15:49] * Yanmei gave him another half-hug, and smiled. "I've very glad to hear that. Come on, it's late. We should try to get some rest. Should I save the stories until morning?"
[15:50] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Y-Yeah. Sorry…" Why did he sound so guilty?]
[15:52] <Yanmei> "…we can also talk about anything that you want to bring up then." She was still smiling, still calm and gentle. "No pressure of course."
[15:53] <Zhang`Mingzhu> [Isaiah nodded. "A-alright." He started to stand up.]
[15:54] * Yanmei stood up with him, of course, hand still on his shoulder until she was sure that he could keep his balance.
[15:56] <Zhang`Mingzhu> [He didn’t seem all -that- drunk, truth told. This was because despite his best attempts, he'd been able to stomach only about a quarter of the bottle at best. Over the hours that had passed… That wasn't really a lot.-
[15:56] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [He headed towards the bedroom at a shuffle.]
[15:59] * Yanmei tided up before following him. Put the bottle away. Went over to the lightswitch for the kitchen. "Proud of me," she mumbled to herself. She savored the taste of those words slowly, and then turned the light off. In her mind’s eye, she could still see the twinkling skyline of Tokyo-2.

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